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Jill's post about Hiding behind a blog (itself a very poignant expose of a personal sorrow) has had enormous ripples. It's joined up with so many conversations, too many to reference here, but I've been interested in the ones about why people keep online notebooks, and what sort of assumptions we make (regarding fiction versus fact) when we read these. Shelley Powers over at Burningbird has a long post on this.

Jill's regular readers seem glad she told them; it gave them a chance to say they're sorry she's hurting. As for whether posting sideways about personal matters is a lie of omission, that's just plain silly. It's incredibly naive to assume that any of us refrain from lying, if not saying everything we think (being tactful?) is the criteria for truth. There shouldn't be a rule that you have to spill everything — nor one that says you can't interleave personal and professional voices. Jill's trying out a lot of new voices, and I like to think her readers have encouraged this lyrical one along with many others.

Getting back to Shelley — the Burningbird attracted my attention because one of her readers brings up a passage in Annie Dillard's A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Like Shelley's reader, I use Annie Dillard's words often in my teaching about strong writing. I've always loved the opening of Pilgrim:

I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest.... And some mornings I'd wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I'd been painted with roses.

I looked as though I'd been painted with roses. There's an image. I believe it. However, learning that Dillard "made up" this part about the cat doesn't faze me. Although it's enriched with a good deal of naturalistic data, Pilgrim isn't "about" the natural world — it's about what it felt like to spend time alone in the natural world.

Fair warning: I'm here to write what it feels like. Often, this is what it feels like to me, but sometimes it's richer when I get to enter imaginatively into another life or experience.

April 21, 2003 in Weblogs, methods | Permalink


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